From an engineer with a Ph.D. in the corporate world, to a start-up founder, and now an adjunct professor at Duke, Dina shares how real estate has been a way for her and her husband to grow their capital while having full-time jobs. With her analytical background and desire for scalability, multifamily made sense to her. After the first investment she made and after receiving distributions from the property’s cash flows, her husband was also on board for the second and future investments. Never imaging that she could be an owner of a multimillion-dollar apartment community, now she feels empowered by her investing experience and is excited to talk about investing with her daughter and other women. It is worth a listen! If easier, you can choose to read it as well.
Hi Dina, I'm so excited to have you and speak to you today. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and share your story.
Thank you Liliana for the opportunity.
I would love to hear a little bit more about yourself and your family. Can you share more?
I'm Dina. I live in Raleigh, North Carolina with my husband and two college kids. Originally, I come from Peru. I immigrated here back in 1992 when I was a graduate student. So I came here to do my engineering graduate school. I finished my masters and Ph.D. and I have been here since then.
And where do your kids go to school?
One of them goes to UNC Chapel Hill. And the other one goes to RPI, New York.
And she just started at RPI. Right?
Yes, yes. She just started college.
Is she enjoying it?
Yeah, she's enjoying it. It's been a good first semester for her. You know, the adjustment is always a little difficult. But I think she was able to survive her first semester. And she's ready for her second semester.
Oh, that's a wonderful, so glad. Tell us more about your professional background and what it is that you do today?
Yes. So professionally, I have been in technology for the last 25 years. I worked in companies such as IBM, Lenovo, Toshiba. Part of my 25 years, I not only worked in corporate, but I also founded a cloud computing startup. It was really a great experience for me. I learned so much during those years. Being a woman engineer in a male dominated market, it was a little bit challenging. I mean, I did a lot in that venture. I developed a software and I was trying to sell the software. But you know, after two and a half to three years as a startup owner in a technology venture, I really realized how difficult it was. So what I did was after three years in the venture, I sold my business, and I went back to corporate. So I’ve been in corporate since then. But just after working in corporate, I wanted to do more in my life. I enjoyed my professional trajectory, but I wanted to do more. So I moved from corporate to academia. So now I am an adjunct faculty member at Duke University Engineering School.
It is definitely a not a straight-line path to where you are today. But that is how we learn so much in life. I think it's wonderful. And I know you're enjoying what you do today. Now, tell us what got you interested in real estate. You were in the technology world. How did you get started in real estate, and then specifically, you know, multifamily.
Being an entrepreneur by nature, you know, I'm always keeping an eye for opportunities. So, throughout my career, I became interested in real estate when I learned that it could be a viable option for me to make extra dollars while working. Because of course, being an immigrant, I didn't want to just quit my job. And because I already lived the entrepreneurial path earlier, I wanted to keep my job. So I've always been thinking on opportunities where I can grow my capital and see where I can earn a little extra without affecting my job. And really, from all the research that I have done, it seemed that real estate was a good area.
Both my husband and I, we bought a townhome, 10 years ago, and we've been renting the townhome since then. And we really haven't done anything other than hire a company to do the management of the property. And really, I mean, that's all we did. What I decided is, let's keep an eye on what things come to us and see what we can do, but we didn't really thought on multifamily. But when Bluefox Ventures presented the value proposition to us, how beneficial it is to invest in multifamily housing, it truly was a no brainer for me to invest in it. I felt that it provides very good value proposition long term. So I liked it. Bluefox Ventures is doing all the work. All I'm doing is putting some money in there. So I love that. So I'm very happy that I made that decision to work with Bluefox Ventures because I have seen the results right after the first quarter that I invested. I mean, so I think it's great. So it seems to me, from what I have seen, that multifamily investing is a little bit more stable than individual family investing. It seems to me that way. So I think I'm happy to continue down the path of investing in multifamily real estate.
That's great. Thank you for sharing that experience. A lot of all investors that we work with have experience in buying real estate themselves. And they do run into issues operating the real estate, because there's a lot of issues with tenants, or it consumes a lot of their time. It looks like you've had a positive experience, which is great. And you still were excited to learn about scalability through multifamily. So I'm so glad that it's worked well for you and you've had a really good experience.
Actually, you explained it better Liliana. For us, we only had, just having one townhome, right? Even though we hired a company to do all the work, we still have to deal with them. And the scalability is always a problem. And then when the tenant leaves, we have to wait for one or two months for it to get rented again. So I mean, there's still a little bit of stress there. Right? So the fact that now we are with Bluefox, we really aren't doing anything. So I love that part. I mean, I know, it sounds like I don't want to work, but that is what attracts me of Bluefox.
You have a full-time job. You and your husband, I know work a lot. So thank you for trusting in us to do that work for you. Now, how as a household do you all decide on your financial plans, determining what you will invest in or not invest? How does that dynamic work within your household?
Yeah, so okay, a little bit about that. So both my husband and I are engineers, both in technology. My husband is a data geek. I mean, every decision that we make, we analyze very carefully. We do market research, profit and loss statement, ROI, etc. We are very particular about that. So most of our decisions, we analyze short term and long term, and we try to take calculated risks. And that's really how we operate.
For multifamily investing, were you both on board? Or did one have to bring the other one along?
Well, at the beginning, we weren't too sure yet. Because I think that the part where we were not sure was the holding of the dollars for an amount of time. So my husband wasn't really too sold on that. He was like, you know, do you want the dollars to be in one place for 10 years? So we weren't sure about that. But thinking about our children and their future, and the fact that right now, we both have our jobs, we really didn't need to get the money out. So we said, why don't we just try the first venture and see how it is. And then if it works, we will move forward with more investments in multifamily. So what we did is, the very first investment I was the only one that invested, not my husband. He said, why don't we make that your investment. And he realized that, like I mentioned to you, the quarter after I invested, I started to get results. So he's like, okay, well, now you convinced me, I can help you invest on the second venture.
So that is a great story that I did not know. Thank you for sharing that. That's wonderful. And I think others can learn from that as well. And you're not the only one that as a couple go through that same exercise and the same experience. So it's wonderful to hear your story as well. So what made you feel comfortable, or rather, maybe was intimidating or challenging about the process of investing through an asset management company like Bluefox?
Okay, for me, the harder part truly, is the fact that, as you know, I think technology so not really knowing about the market was very intimidating. Because again, in my house, my husband is sort of the more financial expert, but even then both of us were not too familiar with multifamily, so I thought that was pretty intimidating. In general, I think I told you, not ever in my dreams I could have thought of owning a part of a building. That wasn't really part of what we ever thought. So that was kind of hard, right? But when you Liliana explained what is it, what's multifamily, what do they do? So we kind of read a little more about it on our own, and we just decided to jump into the opportunity. And that's really what happened. So I trust your abilities since we met back where we both work at IBM. I know that you're very thorough and very factual in your decision making yourself being an engineer also. I really took my own risk. Basically I said, you're the reason why I decided to take the risk. So that's really my story. You know, I trust in Liliana’s ability, so I think I'll go ahead and invest with her. The trust that I have in you, really, is what motivated me to invest.
Thank you, I am humbled by your words. So thank you so much Dina. We've known each other for several years. And we did meet back at IBM when I was there, too. Thank you for that. Now, as a woman investing through this process of, you know, investing with other investors into an apartment community, versus investing on your own in other equities, and other investments, was the experience different? Or was it the same? Can you talk through that a little bit?
The only investment that we've done is really townhouse. And then in my case, I had my own startup. In the startup, I felt very challenged. I mean, it was a very challenging experience. I mean, because being a woman in a male dominated world, it was a little bit hard. But in this particular investment, I feel that being a woman is really a great example, in general, to my own daughter and other girls. Because there are few women investors. When I imagine an investor, I imagine these people that are wearing suits and are in Wall Street, usually they're male and very experienced, financially savvy. So I never really imagined a woman investing. Like I told you, I never in my dreams imagined that I was going to own part of a building. I kind of like that feeling. And I feel a little bit more empowered to talk about investing to my daughter and other young girls. We really need more women to join this group of women investors.
Thank you, Dina. That is wonderful. I am excited to share your story with others, and I know a lot of investors, not only women but investors in general, will find your story and your journey helpful to them as well. So thank you for sharing it.
Yes, thank you Liliana for the opportunity to talk with you and also for the opportunity to invest with you.